A Taste of the Future of Medicine?
Long wait times will likely be more characteristic than lotteries, but somehow this strikes me as an extreme vision of the future of healthcare for the average American in a government-run system:
At 4 p.m., volunteers from the clinic came out with a roll of carnival-style paper tickets. They handed each person a ticket and asked them to put their name and number on the stub.
Someone else handed out sheets of paper with the rules in English and Spanish: the Free Clinic is only for people who have no health insurance. They must prove that their income is less that 150 percent of the federal poverty level — that is, less than $2,200 a month for a family of three. The Free Clinic does not care for children 18 and younger, nor does it provide obstetrical care to pregnant women.
Lynne Urbani, the president and chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Free Clinic, addressed the group, saying she would be drawing 14 names in a few minutes, about half as many as usual because there were fewer volunteer doctors available this night. With a translator, she asked them to affirm that they have no insurance and have a ticket in their hand. They nod in agreement. Those whose names are pulled should expect to stay till 9 p.m. Those who aren’t chosen will get a call offering them an appointment; the next opening is in July.
If prices are set, the medical industry will attract fewer professionals. If tax dollars (in one form or another) are the method of payment — filtered through the government bureaucracy — there will be rationing and long delays as financing and demand fail to balance.
In healthcare, we’ve got a product that people tend to see as an inconvenience when they’re healthy and as a dire necessity when they’re not. The more the system separates those who pay from those who receive, the more effort paid employees will have to allocate for determining priorities or the more they’ll disregard that responsibility and rely on cold process and chance.